What’s the Difference Between Macular Degeneration and Retinal Detachment?

Two disorders that affect the retina and can result in visual loss are macular degeneration and retinal detachment. The layer of unique cells in the back of your eye called the retina is responsible for converting light into electrical messages.

The age-related degeneration of the macula, the core portion of your retina, is known as macular degeneration.

When your retina is torn away from the back of your eye, it is called retinal detachment. It can develop (occur) abruptly, and to prevent irreversible vision loss, emergency medical assistance must be sought right away.

Here, we look at these two conditions' similarities and differences.

Macular degeneration and retinal detachment symptoms

Loss of vision can result from both retinal detachment and macular degeneration. Retinal detachment begins rapidly, although macular degeneration usually develops gradually.

Macular degeneration symptoms

Symptoms of macular degeneration usually start to show up in your 50s or 60s. Three stages are involved:
  • Early stage: Early stages of macular degeneration are symptomless.
  • Intermediate stage: The intermediate stage may or may not cause you to experience moderate symptoms. 
  • Among the symptoms are:
  • rather blurry vision in the centre
  • poor night vision

Late stage: In the latter stages, you could have more serious symptoms like:
  • Straight lines can appear curved.
  • a fuzzy patch in the middle of your field of view
  • having areas of your core vision that are blank
  • Colours could appear less vivid.
  • declining night vision

Types of macular degeneration

Two forms of macular degeneration are distinguished:
  • Dry macular degeneration: Your macula thins as a result of dry macular degeneration. It accounts for around 80% of cases and tends to progress slowly over several years.
  • Wet macular degeneration: In the back of your eyes, abnormal blood vessels can form and cause wet macular degeneration. Though easier to treat, it typically results in rapid visual loss.

Retinal detachment symptoms

Treatment for retinal detachment must begin right away because it is a medical emergency.

The symptoms appear overnight or in a few days. They may consist of:
  • loss of visual acuity
  • new floaters
  • witnessing flashing lights, which are sometimes mistaken for stars
  • a shadowy area in the centre of your view or to one side

Macular degeneration and retinal detachment cause

Here are several reasons for retinal detachment and macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration causes

Age-related alterations to your retina are the root cause of macular degeneration. It impacts over 11 million Americans and is quite prevalent.

The following are risk factors for macular degeneration:
  • family history of the condition
  • smoking
  • lack of exercise
  • White ethnicity
  • ultraviolet (UV) light exposure
  • poor nutrition

Retinal detachment causes

The most frequent cause of retinal detachment is changes to your retina brought on by ageing. The prevalence is higher in those with a familial history. Risk factors and underlying causes include:
  • diabetic retinopathy
  • posterior vitreous detachment
  • swelling in your eye
  • tumors
  • extreme nearsightedness
  • underlying eye disease
  • eye infections
  • inflammatory eye conditions
  • Coats disease
  • trauma to your eye, from an injury or surgery
  • macular degeneration

Can macular degeneration cause retinal detachment?

Retinal detachment can result from macular degeneration. Both dry and wet macular degeneration can result in retinal detachment.

As of yet, no reverse link has been found.

When to contact a doctor

It's crucial to visit an eye doctor whenever you observe any changes in your vision, including:
  • blurriness
  • trouble seeing at night
  • trouble reading


A retinal detachment may result in irreversible eyesight loss. If you experience symptoms like these, visit an emergency room or urgent care facility.
  • seeing flashing lights
  • loss of visual acuity
  • new floaters in your vision
  • a shadowy area in the centre of your view or to one side


Diagnosing macular degeneration and retinal detachment

A dilated eye exam (when a doctor gives you eye drops to expand your pupil and then examines your retina) can diagnose macular degeneration and retinal detachment. You might need to undergo imaging tests, such as an optical coherence tomography (a type of imaging scan) or ultrasound if they require additional information.

How are macular degeneration and retinal detachment treated?

Here are the available treatments for these two ailments.

Macular degeneration treatment

Treatment for early-stage macular degeneration is not necessary, but it should be monitored with routine eye exams. If your illness is at the intermediate stage, your physician might suggest using AREDS 2 supplements.

If your wet macular degeneration is advanced, your physician might advise:
  • anti-VEGF injections
  • Injections and laser therapy combined to form photodynamic therapy
There isn't a recognised cure for late dry macular degeneration.

Retinal detachment treatment

Your retina may be able to heal from microscopic tears or holes using freeze treatment (cryopexy) or laser surgery. During a freeze treatment, your retina is frozen using extremely low temperatures.

If a significant portion of your retina is torn away from your eye, surgery can be necessary. Ninety percent of patients have a successful surgery. Usually, recovery from surgery takes two to six weeks.

Can you prevent macular degeneration and retinal detachment?

There are several things you may do to lower your risk of macular degeneration:
  • If you smoke, you should stop (this might be tough, but a doctor can create a plan that works for you)
  • regular exercise
  • keeping blood pressure and cholesterol at safe levels
  • consuming nutritious foods such as fatty salmon and lush green vegetables
By using protective eyewear when engaging in activities that carry a high risk of eye damage, including construction or contact sports, you can lower your chance of retinal detachment.


These are some of the most common queries regarding retinal detachment.

Is retinal detachment painful?

Painless retinal detachment occurs. Your eyes may see flashes or floaters as the initial symptoms.

How long before retinal detachment causes blindness?

Sight loss due to retinal detachment may occur in a matter of hours or days. It's critical to get medical assistance as soon as possible.

What should you avoid with retinal detachment?

It's advised to stay away from head-heavy tasks like cleaning and carrying heavy objects if you recently had a detached retina.


Two disorders that lead to vision loss are macular degeneration and retinal detachment.

The ageing process causes changes in the eyes that lead to macular degeneration. In the early stages, it usually doesn't create any symptoms and develops slowly.

Usually, vision loss results after retinal detachment within hours or days. Medical attention must be given right away.

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